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August 3, 2005

Property Rights - Bush Worst Offender

-- by Dave Johnson

I have been meaning to write something about the Supreme Court's "property rights" decision, Kelo v. New London, in which the court ruled that local governments can seize private property for use in private development. I agree with the basis of the decision, that the needs of communities are important considerations, and sometimes those needs override individual rights. But I think the way it will be applied under our current corrupt system opens the door to serious abuse. In some ways it's the ultimate demonstration of the Right's real agenda: total corporate domination of the people.

But that's not what I wanted to write about. All over the right-wing radio and blogosphere conservatives are up in arms over this decision. They say this is about "big government liberals" taking property away from hard-working homeowners. For a typical example, look at the first comment to this Kevin Drum post on the subject:

Kelo is the ultimate Democrat decision. It allows the government to steal individual's property in order to increase the governments own wealth. It has transformed the vestiges of American Democracy into what the liberals have always wanted: a communist state.
Heh.

I want to remind everyone just who the most famous abuser of property seizures happens to be.

From Bush and the Texas Land Grab by Nicholas Kristof, July 16, 2002:

"A copy of the secret agreement among Mr. Bush and the other Rangers owners shows that they intended to make money not just by running a baseball club but also by land speculation.

For example, one owner found a nice chunk of land and sent a memo suggesting that it "sounds like another condemnation candidate if you want to work the site into your master plan," according to the court documents. Another of the owners' internal memos casts a proprietary gaze on a property and declares: "We plan to condemn this land."

For a group of financiers to go around town admiring properties and deciding which to seize through the government power of condemnation so that they can acquire free land and speculate on it is appalling."

From Notes On A Native Son, Joe Conason, Harpers, Feb., 2002 (oh please, read the whole thing):
Never before had a municipal authority in Texas been given license to seize the property of a private citizen for the benefit of other private citizens. That is exactly what happened to a recalcitrant Arlington family that refused to sell a 13-acre parcel near the stadium site for half its appraised value. Their land was condemned and handed over to the Rangers.
Yes, that's right. Bush got rich through a corrupt arrangement with a city government to seize property and hand it over to the the baseball team he owned - the Texas Rangers.

So when you hear a right-winger complain about Kelo, and government seizures of property, let them know who the worst offender is, and point them to this info.

Posted by Dave Johnson at August 3, 2005 6:33 PM

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Comments

I think the rule may be...when THEY accuse Deomocrats/Liberals of doing something, then they themselves are guilty.....

And I do agree with you. It would be nice, if...they weren't so corrupt. ...

Posted by: Sporkey at August 4, 2005 12:21 AM

Private waterfront property is already being seized around NYC so that condos can be built. This, of course, wrecks neighborhoods instead of improving them as well as forcing out people from homes they've owned for generations. The "excuse" is that this is a public benefit because it increases tax revenues.

Posted by: MJ at August 4, 2005 8:34 AM

I don't understand why you think this was an exceptional case Dave. It happened in San Diego when the City Council condemned land for the Padres new ballpark. It happens all the time. That's why Kelo was such a horrendous decision. Now corrupt local officials don't even have to pretend they are doing it for the public good. They have carte blance to rip off property from working folks and give it to the developers buddies and campaign contributors.

Kelo should have been far more narrowly decided. Scalia and Thomas and the wingnuts are absolutely right. Kelo was wrongly decided.

Posted by: Gary Boatwright at August 4, 2005 2:29 PM

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